Today seems to be one of those days where you are just living life and everything appears mundane. While I like to think having a mundane life at this point is everything I’ve ever wanted given my last four years, sometimes something occurs that jolts your normal. That’s not always in a bad way of course, but today ended up being one of those days.
I was at our local liquor store getting some wine and beer for the weekend. I usually see the same people working there when I go, however the last couple of times I visited, I had the pleasure of interacting with someone new.
She was around 60 years old or at least appeared to be. She looked great. She had a smile, was very friendly, and the last two times I had been there, she carried my purchases to the car for me. I had mentioned I recently had a baby and although I was fine and 4 months out, she insisted she carry my items for me.
The first time, I thanked her and she was very passionate about letting me know that I needed to take time to heal. I remember that I appreciated that care so much from someone I hardly knew. The second visit, I was paying for my purchases and speaking with the manager who I had not seen in about a year, as I was going through my pregnancy and birth of my second son. We caught up for a second and as we spoke, the woman who had helped me before quickly grabbed my bottles and headed out the door with me again so she could help.
As we approached the car, I thanked her again for her efforts to help me after knowing I had a child recently. I told her I was four months out and in all reality, I should be fine, but she immediately told me I needed at least 6 months to heal. I again reiterated that I appreciated her help and explained that I had a tough c-section and additional surgery.
As we continued talking, she started to tell me about her husband and stated, “my 2nd husband, the love of my life, went through a tough surgery as well.” She went on the explain that he had stomach cancer and that he had gone through 6 months of chemo therapy, radiation and had his entire stomach removed. She also went on the explain that she and he travelled the world, spent enormous amounts of time together as he was given 6 months to live. She then stated he passed away a short time later.
At that point I mentioned to her that I was a breast cancer survivor and that I also had been through chemo and radiation treatments. She expressed her happiness that I was there and that I shared a bit about myself with her. She then went on to tell me a little bit more about herself.
She told me that about a year ago, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I asked her if she also went through chemo and radiation to which she stated, “I had the surgery, but I did not do chemo or the radiation. I didn’t want to go through that. I CHOSE not to go through that.” I sat there stunned for a second, as I realized that reoccurrences are quite common with brain cancer. My stomach started to turn a little as I continued to listen to her story more.
She then stated that she recently had been feeling symptoms again but this time, she stated she was not going to go in to see her doctor. She said she had a neurology appointment next month and she would follow up at that point, but she said that she decided no matter what, she was not going to have anymore MRIs, surgeries, or any other treatment options.
At this point in our conversation, I started to realize what she was telling me. My eyes welled up with huge tears. I tried really hard not to blink as I knew they were ready to fall and I wanted to stay strong for her in that moment. She then stated, “I’m ready to see my husband again.”
At this point I told her I was getting emotional. She walked over quickly and gave me a huge hug. We hugged each other in the parking lot and that few seconds seemed so surreal. When she stepped back. I could see her eyes were filled with tears too and she said, “I have my children, my grandkids, and I have this job that I now do for fun. I was the Mayor of a small community for 14 years. I’ve lived the life that I wanted to and now I want to see my husband again.”
I was sobbing at this point.
She looked at me again and said, “Life is beautiful. Love your family and love life the way you want to. I’ve loved life the way I always wanted to love mine. Have a great day.” She smiled.
As she turned away, I asked her one last question. “What is your name?” She replied, “Barb.” I told her my name and we parted ways.
I cried all the way home. This amazing woman is choosing to die. Why? Because she can. She has lived the life that she has wanted and is ready to take a new journey. I am choosing to live and try and live the life that I have always wanted. Why? Because I can and at this point have a choice. Maybe those choices will change someday if I am faced with a decision I need to make, but for now, I need to continue my journey here and I choose to. We connected because we are both comfortable with our choices. Choice is powerful. Choice can instigate change. Choice can give life, continue life, or end it.
She was amazing to me for so many other reasons. As much as I fear not seeing her the next time I visit the store, I will always remember this small and powerful interaction with a woman named Barb.